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CROMBY'S AXIOM

An engrossing and disturbing glimpse into a digital totalitarian future.

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In a future world where almost all of humanity is mentally connected by a universal, digital mind/internet, a famous athlete suddenly becomes unlinked and a captive of free-thinking rebels.

Kirchner’s debut SF novel envisions the year 2084. Following a war in which 2 billion people died, humanity adopted the pseudo-utopian solution of universal connectivity to the “Hive” via neural implants. Now, a placid, highly regulated global community of rather shallow citizens enjoys distractions of instant information, entertainment, gossip, sports, and social media. Meanwhile, the surveillance state, aka “Mother,” ruthlessly patrols their thoughts and quietly eliminates any troubling dissent or forbidden subjects (like religion or paperback books). Tommy Pierre Antigakamac—alias “Teepee,” in reference to his Canadian First Nations ancestry—star of American-style football, is one of the Hive’s most avidly followed celebrities. But while indulging in his elitist privilege of hiking and adventuring unattended in the Swiss hinterlands, he becomes disconnected from the Hive. Truly alone for the first time, the athlete is captured by a band of “Ketchen,” off-grid dwellers. At first, the hero is disgusted by their primitive ways and taboo offline ideas, but with time and the hosts’ patient hospitality, Teepee starts to revel in the privileges of privacy and freedom of thought, and he too comes to hate Mother and the dictatorship. Then the rebels invent a method to sabotage the all-seeing Hive, reliant on Teepee’s superior speed and timing. But something isn’t quite right. Readers should spot fairly easily the takeoff on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (a shoutout to Ray Bradbury also conjures that writer’s dystopias). Indeed, much of the engaging story settles into confined debates-cum–brainwash sessions (à laWinston Smith versus O’Brien in Orwell’s classic). These discussions focus on the Hive’s insidious methodology and, at least to the ostensible, surprisingly sympathetic villain of the tale, why such a society became necessary, and perhaps even inevitable, for Earth’s survival. But will the much-abused Teepee carry out the system’s destruction, will he escape somewhere else, or will he repent and learn to love Big Mother? With a brief page count and consistent intelligence, Kirchner’s novel may not reinvent the dystopian future cautionary tale, but it renders an effective update/upgrade for the age of the smartphone. His portrayal of a surveillance state is as disquieting as Orwell’s vision in the analog era.

An engrossing and disturbing glimpse into a digital totalitarian future.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-52-559608-7

Page Count: 204

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE DARK FOREST

From the Remembrance of Earth's Past series , Vol. 2

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Second part of an alien-contact trilogy (The Three-Body Problem, 2014) from China’s most celebrated science-fiction author.

In the previous book, the inhabitants of Trisolaris, a planet with three suns, discovered that their planet was doomed and that Earth offered a suitable refuge. So, determined to capture Earth and exterminate humanity, the Trisolarans embarked on a 400-year-long interstellar voyage and also sent sophons (enormously sophisticated computers constructed inside the curled-up dimensions of fundamental particles) to spy on humanity and impose an unbreakable block on scientific advance. On Earth, the Earth-Trisolaris Organization formed to help the invaders, despite knowing the inevitable outcome. Humanity’s lone advantage is that Trisolarans are incapable of lying or dissimulation and so cannot understand deceit or subterfuge. This time, with the Trisolarans a few years into their voyage, physicist Ye Wenjie (whose reminiscences drove much of the action in the last book) visits astronomer-turned-sociologist Luo Ji, urging him to develop her ideas on cosmic sociology. The Planetary Defense Council, meanwhile, in order to combat the powerful escapist movement (they want to build starships and flee so that at least some humans will survive), announces the Wallfacer Project. Four selected individuals will be accorded the power to command any resource in order to develop plans to defend Earth, while the details will remain hidden in the thoughts of each Wallfacer, where even the sophons can't reach. To combat this, the ETO creates Wallbreakers, dedicated to deducing and thwarting the plans of the Wallfacers. The chosen Wallfacers are soldier Frederick Tyler, diplomat Manuel Rey Diaz, neuroscientist Bill Hines, and—Luo Ji. Luo has no idea why he was chosen, but, nonetheless, the Trisolarans seem determined to kill him. The plot’s development centers on Liu’s dark and rather gloomy but highly persuasive philosophy, with dazzling ideas and an unsettling, nonlinear, almost nonnarrative structure that demands patience but offers huge rewards.

Once again, a highly impressive must-read.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7708-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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